Light & Shadows of Chalandor Book of Shadows
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Title: European Contact
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/09/2009 21:46 PM)
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European Contact

Profound cultural changes followed contact with Euro Americans. Disease, such as smallpox, for which Native Americans had no immunity, devastated the population and social fabric of the S'Klallams. Estimates of mortality among the Pacific Northwest Indians, resulting form European-born disease, range as high as 90 percent. Hudson's Bay Company records suggest there were approximately 1,500 S'Klallams in 1845. By 1853, when the Washington Territory was created, government records indicated that S'Klallam numbers had dwindled to only about 400.

At this point, there were already some 4,000 settlers north of the Columbia River, mostly concentrated in the Puget Sound area. Bloody clashes between Indians and whites occurred throughout the territory with increasing frequency. Pioneer settlements were springing up in S'Klallam territory at places like Dungeness and Port Townsend, and a saw mill was already operating at nearby Port Ludlow. Our whole territory is alive with Indians, complained one pioneer, who kept up a most provoking and unceasing broil about the lands which they say the Bostons' [the Indian name for Americans] are holding without a proper and legitimate right and title to the same.

In November 1853, Isaac Stevens, Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the new territory, arrived in Olympia and promised that extinguishing the Indian land title was foremost on his agenda, to be resolved through the treaty-making authority granted him by the federal government. In the winter of 1855, the S'Klallam, Chemakum and Twana tribes gathered at the northeast point of the Kitsap Peninsula, Known as Point No Point (1), to negotiate a treaty with Isaac Stevens. On a cold January day, the S'Klallams signed away their title to 438,430 acres of ancestral lands.

Terms of the Point No Point treaty were poorly understood by the Indians. Negotiations were conducted in the extremely limited Chinook Jargon, a trade language consisting of a few hundred words, and the Euro American concept of private property was foreign to Native peoples' communal, family-based sense of territory.

The treaty itself contained two inconsistent provisions: The S'Klallams secured the right to fish in their usual and accustomed grounds and stations, but they were assigned to the Skokomish Reservation 100 to 180 miles away from their usual and accustomed places along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the mouth of Hood Canal. Population pressure from settlers rendered the treaty out of date before it was even ratified by the U.S. Senate four years later. Goods promised to the Indians under their treaty of January 1855 were not distributed for the first time until 1861. From the time of white settlement, until their treaty rights were recognized by court decision in the 1970s, the S'Klallam Nation faced a fundamental challenges to its existence.
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